Fast fashion e-commerce Shein has said it plans to spend $15 million upgrading hundreds of factories in its supply chain over the next three to four years.
In a release, the controversial retailer said the investment will focus on physical improvements to its suppliers’ factories as part of its Supplier Community Empower Program (SCEP).
It added that more than 30 projects are set to be completed by the end of the year, while 100 are expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and up to 300 within four years.
Shein further noted that all of its manufacturing suppliers have agreed to abide by its Responsible Sourcing (SRS) program, which it said ensures employees are treated fairly in safe working conditions, and its Code of Conduct.
It added that more than 2,600 independent audits had been carried out in the past 12 months.
However, it stated that it was “determined to do more” and was committed to doubling the $4 million a year it puts into the SRS scheme.
Adam Whinston, global head of ESG for Shein, told the news: “We take our responsibility to safeguard the welfare of workers at all our suppliers very seriously.
“Through Shein’s SRS program, we have worked diligently with our contracted partners to improve welfare and working conditions. We are now looking to double our investment in the SRS program to further improve supplier management.”
The announcement follows a series of external investigations into Shein’s supply chain, including most recently by the British broadcasting platform Channel 4which aired a documentary about the Chinese business and factories in the supply chain.
Evidence unveiled as part of the investigation found that workers in two of the garment factories were paid as little as three pence, while working 18-hour shifts.
Independent investigation contradicts earlier reports
In response to Channel 4’s claims, Shein said it carried out an independent investigation which refuted “most” of the allegations in the documentary.
Despite this, the retailer said it had still reduced orders from the two manufacturers by three-quarters until they complied with their code of conduct.
According to the findings, Shein said workers at both factories had received wages in accordance with local labor laws and regulations, and workers in both were said to receive wages between £1,162 and £1,212.
It added that allegations that workers’ wages were withheld or illegally deducted were also untrue.
Furthermore, the survey showed that the maximum working day at both factories was between 12.5 and 13.5 hours, with workers taking at least two to three days off per month.
Shein noted that while the hours were less than the claims, they were still higher than local regulations, so it gave suppliers until the end of December to rectify the situation.
As for the pence per completed garment, Shein said the figure originally quoted referred to a commission per step per piece and not for a fully completed item.
Shein’s Whinston added that the company has now implemented a multi-channel feedback system for its contract factory workers, allowing them to anonymously submit complaints and feedback through multiple channels.